ALPHARETA, Ga. – John Smoltz is well known as one of the greatest baseball pitchers to ever wear a tomahawk across his chest, but his extraordinary civic contributions to his adopted hometown of Alpharetta often go unrecognized.
But that ended Aug. 25 at a little ceremony at Avalon’s Oak Restaurant where the stretch of Old Milton Parkway from Ga. 400 to Ga. 9 was renamed John Smoltz Highway for the civic and humanitarian work he has done for the community.
Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Brandon Beach presided over the presentation of a green city street sign emblazoned “John Smoltz Highway.” While no one’s addresses will be changed along that stretch of highway – the U.S. Postal Service gets a little touchy about that – Beach told the Smoltz family, friends and well-wishers that from this time forward, 2.1 miles of the road is the Johns Smoltz Highway.
“John has the ability to galvanize the community to get behind projects. One of the traits that put him in the Hall of Fame is tremendous faculties of focus and concentration,” Beach said.
Beach said he had the opportunity to visit the Braves clubhouse before a game and came across Smoltz lying in what Beach described as a cross between a cocoon and a sleeping bag.
“That contraption John was in was a hyperbaric chamber where he could relax before he pitched. Even when he was relaxing, John was focused,” Beach said.
Smoltz is well known for his philanthropy through the John and Dyan Smoltz Foundation. He has worked with the Atlanta Community Food Bank since 1992. Not only has he helped serve Thanksgiving dinners for the Food Bank as an active player, he served as the Food Bank’s spokesman for “National Hunger Awareness Day.”
He also created the Strike Out Hunger Foundation which raised $300,000 in cash for food. In addition Smoltz pledged $100 per strikeout he recorded.
That was no small pledge considering Smoltz notched 3,011 Ks in his career.
In 2005 Smoltz was given Major League Baseball’s prestigious Roberto Clemente Award, given to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.”
For many years Smoltz gave his time and his efforts to the Alpharetta Police Athletic League serving on its board of directors.
However, Smoltz is best known around North Fulton for his involvement with faith-based Kings Ridge Christian School. He was on the school’s original board of directors and helped raise millions for construction of Kings Ridge and serves as KRCS chairman emeritus.
From its beginnings in a rehabbed grocery store, the school now boasts a $50 million campus on 70 acres in Alpharetta that includes lower, middle and high school buildings and a performing arts center and athletics campus.
At the ceremony, Therrell “Sonny” Murphy said the most salient part of Smoltz is that “he never, ever quits.”
Murphy should know. He was an original board member and chairman of Kings Ridge School along with Smoltz.
“John has been paving roads for Christ for a long time,” Murphy said. “He is an unapologetic Christian man.”
It was Smoltz who got Beach involved with Kings Ridge and today is on the KRCS board.
“I met John at a Starbucks one day, and the passion he shared for the school with me, he convinced me to become a board member. And today I take that passion with me to the Senate,” Beach said.
Smoltz said he owes a lot to his father.
“I learned to fight hard for what you believe in and not compromise,” he said.
“Kings Ridge was something I never doubted. But I never thought it would turn out as well as it did,” he said.
He said at 50 he still has mountains to conquer. He has his eye on making the senior golf tour, better known as the Senior Tour of Champions.
That is the attitude that Smoltz has brought to every aspect of his life. Certainly there was no better feeling for a manager who was looking at game 7 of the World Series to know that he was handing the ball to John Smoltz.
Today, he has a new career as a top television baseball announcer winning rave reviews for his work in last year’s World Series. That’s another world conquered.
But perhaps the best news that day came when Smoltzie said he and his family plan to stay in Alpharetta.